The poet was Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He worked on the poem for several months before sending it to The Spectator in London, which rejected it. It was later published in Punch, the weekly British satirical magazine, albeit at first anonymously. ‘In Flanders Fields’ became the most popular poem of that time but McCrae would not live to see his Flanders Fields Poppies grow into an international symbol of remembrance. He died of meningitis on 28th January 1918. He was buried at the British war cemetery in Wimereux in France, near Boulogne-sur-Mer.
New York, 9th November 1918. Professor Moina Michael, who works for the YMCA in New York, takes a brief pause between her duties and grabs a magazine. In it she reads the poem by John McCrae. She is deeply moved by the poem, especially the last stanza – “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields”.
She feels as if the voices of the fallen soldiers who in the poem warn the reader not to forget them, address her directly. At that point she pledges that she will always wear a red poppy as a token of remembrance. She even writes a poem, answering the call in McCrae’s last verse. Matching words with deeds, Moina Michael starts on a crusade in order to have the poppy accepted as a symbol of remembrance of the Great War – and succeeded.